The Education of Little Tree

by Forrest Carter

Paperback, 1990



Local notes

PB Car


University of New Mexico Press (1990), 216 pages


The Education of Little Tree tells of a boy orphaned very young, who is adopted by his Cherokee grandmother and half-Cherokee grandfather in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee during the Great Depression. "Little Tree" as his grandparents call him is shown how to hunt and survive in the mountains, to respect nature in the Cherokee Way, taking only what is needed, leaving the rest for nature to run its course. Little Tree also learns the often callous ways of white businessmen and tax collectors, and how Granpa, in hilarious vignettes, scares them away from his illegal attempts to enter the cash economy. Granma teaches Little Tree the joys of reading and education. But when Little Tree is taken away by whites for schooling, we learn of the cruelty meted out to Indian children in an attempt to assimilate them and of Little Tree's perception of the Anglo world and how it differs from the Cherokee Way. A classic of its era, and an enduring book for all ages, The Education of Little Tree has now been redesigned for this twenty-fifth anniversary edition.… (more)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

216 p.; 8.07 inches


0826308791 / 9780826308795



Media reviews

This is an engaging story of a Cherokee boy's childhood in the 1930s. The richness of the informal education and wisdom provided by the boy's grandparents is in striking contrast to that of the white-run school the boy is subsequently forced to attend. This book was originally published as autobiographical reminiscences, but has been reclassified as fiction. Controversy surrounds this moving work. Some believe author Forrest Carter to be the late Asa Earl Carter, a white supremacist. Carter, nevertheless, could have had Cherokee heritage and still have held racist beliefs.
2 more
Part of Little Tree’s strong appeal, I suspect, is its tone of moral certainty. If Grandpa’s folksy wisdom feels a bit heavy-handed at times, it also serves as a touching reminder of a more innocent era. For young and old alike, Forrest Carter’s memoir brings alive once more, in luminously remembered detail, the shape and spirit of a world we had lost.
A Cherokee boyhood of the 1930s remembered in generous, loving detail, from the author of the very dissimilar Josey Wales novels.

User reviews

LibraryThing member kellifrobinson
After finishing this book and then delving into several book reviews by Christopher Hitchins where Hitchins thoroughly examines the authors in addition to the authors' works, I decided to do a bit of research myself on some of the authors I had recently read. I started with Forrest Carter (aka Asa Earl Carter) from Anniston, Alabama - just up the road from my home in Birmingham. What happened next was eye-opening. This book, which I found full of stereotypes and quite average despite its great reviews, is actually steeped in controversy! I started with the 1991 New York Times' article "The Transformation of a Klansman" by Dan T. Carter. I was fascinated to hear that the New York Times moved The Education of Little Tree, originally published in 1976 and then reprinted in 1986, from its Nonfiction Bestseller List to its Fiction Bestseller List after this story broke. Although some of my fellow GoodReads members still have this book categorized as a memoir - be warned - this one is a hoax, a mocu-memoir written by a former segregationist who successfully re-invented himself late in life. I don't really feel all that duped since I was pretty unconvinced of the book's genuineness even before I researched its author, but I may have read the book differently if I'd known all this before I started. Lesson learned.… (more)
LibraryThing member MaeBHollie
This story is best suited to seventh and eight grade readers because it does have some violent situations. The story comes off as straight autobiographical (which makes it seem even more believeable to the reader) a teachable moment when you explain to young readers that its intent is to draw the reader in and make the story come alive for them which it succeeds in doing. The story is a bout a cherokee boy who loses his parents and is forced to move to his grandparents home in some very hard times in some untolerable situations. he learns about his culture and how to rely on himself and his histroy to survive and not on the promises of others. A great coming of age story.… (more)
LibraryThing member Pompeia
I love this book. It is both happy and sad and I have never cared more for fictional characters than for Little Tree and his grandparents.

Indeed, a wonderful book, though it was originally falsely claimed to be an autobiograph and I never like authors deceiving their public. Still, the writing is fabulous!

This is the growth story of an orphaned Cherokee boy raised by his grandparents. The appreciation of nature and the unhurried lifestyle of the these three gives gives the book a wonderful ambiance in which I like to bask for as long as I can. The encounters Little Tree has with the surrounding world -Christians and such- always made me either laugh or blink tears from my eyes but never left me cold.
… (more)
LibraryThing member NatureGeek
This book has gotten some flack for not being a real memoir - but I still love this book, no matter who the author was. The story, the characters are still the same, and this is one of my favorite books, though its tag is "fiction" instead of "memoir" or non-fiction." Heartwarming and fun - a book that will make you laugh and cry and love the characters and not want it to end.… (more)
LibraryThing member likelectriceels
While I didn't like this book much, I think it was very important for me to have read it. I read the book in my eighth grade english class which was the first advanced class I had taken. I think about half way through reading the book together in class, someone discovered the fact that this book is in fact not autobiographical like it claims. We did end up reading the entire book, but the important thing that we all got from it was the debate over whether or not it's even relevant, since the author is not the person in the story.… (more)
LibraryThing member horacewimsey
I remember reading this book in middle school and liking it very much. Then a year or so ago I read that it was made up, that Forrest Carter was a racist or something of that nature and that the book, ostensibly autobiographical, was complete fiction. Disappointing now, but I liked it back when.
LibraryThing member anneofia
The most interesting thing to me about this book is the flack it has gotten for not being true, as it was originally portrayed. Nevertheless I liked it. The characters are still the same, though it's "fiction" instead of "memoir". Heartwarming and fun - a book that will make you laugh and cry and love the characters!
LibraryThing member Doozer
This is the precursor to many of the recent books presented as memoir, but actually fiction. It has been well established that this book is a work of fiction, but the publishers continue to present it as a factual memoir The author's real name is Asa Carter, a segragationist speach-writer for George Wallace. A dishonest book.… (more)
LibraryThing member moggyandme
How much do I love this book - it is my all time favourite book. I have read a few times over the years and always go back and enjoy it!
LibraryThing member Vero-unua
Claimed autobiographical account of the author's early life as a Cherokee orphan raised on the reservation by his grandparents. After winning several literary awards it was posthumously revealed that the author "Forrest Carter" was in reality Asa Earl Carter, a White Ku Klux Klansman and segregationist politician from Alabama, who had never been orphaned as a child… (more)
LibraryThing member melissarochelle
** spoiler alert ** This book was on my required reading list in 9th grade (maybe 10th). I read it, I enjoyed it. But this time around, I feel like I got even more. I laughed, I cried, I laughed, and then I thought...huh?

I know the author's story...he's not Cherokee at fact, he's a racist. I still like the story. But the thing that got me was that in the 1930s, I'm supposed to believe that a 9 year old boy rode off into the sunset by himself? Nine years old? Isn't that how old Little Tree is by the end? And he just finds a horse somewhere and heads out west? That I don't believe it. I can't really think of any other way to end the book...but I certainly don't believe this ending. How would ANYONE have EVER believed this was a TRUE STORY? Maybe I just don't understand the 1930s...but really?! Nine?!… (more)
LibraryThing member jpmccasland
The Education of Little Tree is about a young boy who loses his mother and is adopted by his grandparents. His grandmother is Cherokee and his grandfather is half Cherokee and they live in the mountains of Tennessee during the great depression. The education that Little Tree receives is in how to live with nature, to observe the earth as she breathes and realize that we are better for living in harmony with it. Little Tree learns to listen to the trees, read the news of the day by the tracks and how to truly listen with his heart. His grandfather also teaches him the fine art of making and selling moonshine. The cruel world outside intrudes for a time and tries to assimilate Little Tree into the white culture but is unsuccessful. The grandparents eventually leave Little Tree alone, but not without an education in what is truly important.

I have read this book several times in my life, first as a young child on a trip from California. I cry every time I read it, but my tears are mostly in wonder at the ability of the writer to touch my heart. I laughed at the grandparents casual life and strong love. The writer portrays the life of Little Tree and his grandparents in a way that makes me want to live in the mountains like he did. I come away each time I read this book with a greater appreciation for nature and a profound sadness for the cruelty of humans to their fellowman.

In a classroom, this book could be used to provoke discussions about racism among all peoples. The class could discuss the Cherokee nation and study their movements and the reasons for their moving. The history of the United States' dealings with the Native American peoples could be studied. In Oklahoma, a field trip could be planned to Talequah to see the street signs in Cherokee.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This book was first published in 1977 and touted as "true." It tells of a five-year-old Indian orphan who, in the Depression 1930s, comes to live wih his Cherokee grandparents. The story is told by the boy, with some improbabilities (e.g., the grandmother reads Shakespeare and Gibbon to the illiterate grandfather and the five-year-old grandson). For much of the book I was underimptressed and maybe that is why the closing chapters seemed so stunningly poignant. But I was thoroughly blown away by the story and its super-poignant final chapters. I only give it less than five stars because of the defects of the earlier part of the book. But the book is a stunning triumph when viewed by its effect as it ends.… (more)
LibraryThing member broloff
This is one of my favorite books. I read it again every so often. It moves me in a different way each time I read it.
LibraryThing member ykolstad
"Gramma said when you come on something good, first thing to do is to share it with whoever you can find; that way , the good spreads out where no telling it will go. Which is right." This is a feel-good story. I laughed, but I cried more. This is a really special book that changes how you look at the world. I didn't know about the controversy around its author until after I read it, and I'm glad. Great book.… (more)
LibraryThing member SueinCyprus
This is the story of Little Tree, a five-year-old boy who is brought up by his Cherokee grandparents after his mother dies. Although the introduction claims it's an autobiographical reminiscence, it is in fact fiction. Moreover, the author is not Cherokee; at one point he was apparently a member of extreme racist groups in the USA.

Nevertheless, it's a very well-written book. I gather that some of the details of Little Tree's life and Cherokee customs are not based on reality, but pure fiction; that would perhaps upset people from this background, but for me it was a delightful insight into a world I knew nothing about.

Moreoever, the book is very pro-Cherokee, and positive about Little Tree's experiences, educational and otherwise. White men are shown to be bigoted and legalistic, and Little Tree's brief foray into a boarding school is heart-breaking.

I can only assume that the author had repented of his former beliefs when he wrote it. Some critics consider the language offensive - it's written in a distinctive style, almost as if in five-year-old language at times. But for me, it added to the realism of the story.

All in all, I thought it a lovely book.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Laura_Jones
If I am having a really bad day, I pull this book of the shelf, and flip to the poison ivy scene!!
LibraryThing member LaPhenix
I loved this book! The story was humorous, yet heartbreaking. I found it especially interesting that while the whites were never portrayed as stereotypes or clowns, given the situations they were put in, they often came off as the fools.
LibraryThing member untraveller
Good book....formulaic writing which almost seems to be written to drag the emotions out. Nevertheless, nicely done.
LibraryThing member KRaySaulis
Beautiful. The review on the back cover that says "this is a book you never truly recover from" describes it perfectly. Amazing, powerful. It will change how you view those you love and the earth we live on.
LibraryThing member FriendsLibraryFL
Forrest Carter, from the age of four or five, was inseparable from his part-Cherokee grandfather, who owned a farm and ran a country store nearby. Granpa called him Little Sprout; when he grew taller, he became Little Tree. From Granpa he absorbed the Cherokee ethic; to give love without expecting gratitude, to take from the land only what you need. Little Tree watches a mountain storm when Nature is birthing Spring, learns bird signs and wind songs and which crops to plant by the dark of the moon. He hears the true story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears, and why it is not the Indian who wept, but the watching white man. From a Jewish peddler who came every season to Granpa's store he learns a lesson in charity; from a sharecropper he learns to understand misplaced pride. He escapes death through Granpa's courage and confronts, for the first time, the hypocrisy and brutality of white Americans.Much of the lore passed from generation to generation by word of mouth is found in these stories in The Education of Little Tree, autobiographical if not all factually accurate. For instance, Granma is based on family memories of Carter's great-great-great grandmother (Granpa's great-grandmother), who was a full Cherokee, combined with the author's own mother, who read Shakespeare to him when he was a child. But Granpa is all and forever true in this storyteller's memoir of a time that ended when Little Tree was ten and Granpa died.… (more)
LibraryThing member fuzzi
A five year old boy loses his parents, and is then taken home by his grandparents, both Cherokee. They teach him the Cherokee Way, and he learns to love nature and life itself, until the government tries to place him "more appropriately".

Involving read, very enjoyable, and worth a reread in the future. Recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member KimSalyers
received in the mail today and is a good book. I have also seen the movie to this book
LibraryThing member YvetteKolstad
"Gramma said when you come on something good, first thing to do is to share it with whoever you can find; that way , the good spreads out where no telling it will go. Which is right." This is a feel-good story. I laughed, but I cried more. This is a really special book that changes how you look at the world. I didn't know about the controversy around its author until after I read it, and I'm glad. I'm seriously considering reading this with my middle school students next year.… (more)
LibraryThing member nancynova
rabck from Erishkigal; considering this book was written under a pen name by a racist Southerner who likely never set foot in Tennessee, it was quite good. Using a young boys backwoods dialect, it tells the story of Little Tree, orphaned at age 5, who goes to live with his part Indian grandparents in the hills of Tennessee. This folk wisdoms of the grandparents are quite delightful. This book will move along as a wishlist tag to another bookcrosser.… (more)




(356 ratings; 3.8)
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